Friday, July 23, 2010

ongoing issues

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, they published a letter from a reader who expressed some discomfort with the whole justifiable "state secrets" thing in Katchdourian's piece on WikiLeaks. Good.

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But the first letter of the batch addressed Sasha Frere-Jones on Pandora. Sasha Frere-Jones was writing about Pandora!?

I've been complaining about Pandora for weeks. Ever since I started using it. Algorithm my eye! I think this story is particularly illuminating:

I started my station with Public Image Ltd’s “Poptones,” a 1979 song that is loaded with bass, dissonant guitar, and the sinus bray of John Lydon, once known as Johnny Rotten. The band’s sound is deeply indebted to reggae—the original bassist was named Jah Wobble—but I couldn’t make a reggae song appear on my Poptones station. I did get lots of bands I like: the Minutemen, the Birthday Party, and Fugazi, who all make aggressive music that, like Public Image’s, is heavy on articulate rhythm and acidic guitar.

There's something sort of shallow about Pandora's analysis. Sometimes I do feel like they play you things they think you'll like (from a marketing perspective - same age, same niche) but they miss things that have a meaningful musical relationship.

And sometimes I think Pandora is too synchronic and not diachronic enough, which speaks more to the letter-writer's gripe, that you can't learn about music being made now that might be influenced by music you liked the last time you paid attention to pop music. And how helpful would that be?!?

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If you didn't already read Hilton Als on Tyler Perry, but you want a Tyler Perry primer, I recommend. Back in April (!!), subscription only.

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Hilarious: a "Shouts and Murmurs" that makes fun of Thomas Friedman, and cliches in general. And places Osama bin Laden in a quotidian/bourgeois US mise en scene: prosciutto, J.Crew and Arts and Crafts-style homes.

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